I’ve spent most of my life dealing with ‘rage’ issues. I’ve never been physically violent, but verbal vitriol, especially online, has been an issue in the past (and something that I continue to work on, of course). So I know of what I speak when I talk about the seductiveness of rage, and the appeal of anger, and the problems that can accompany them.
For the skimmers: if you conclude from this article that I believe that one should never feel or act on anger, then you have not read this article correctly.
In retrospect, I spent much of my teenage years and early twenties in a mild depression. The why of that is not pertinent to this article, but it’s important to understand that depression doesn’t simply mean ‘feeling sad’. Oftentimes there’s no feeling at all: feeling sad would be a positive change of affairs, because then I would have actually felt *something*.
Things that would have caused me to feel sad would be looked upon with passive detachment. As would things that should have caused me to feel happy. Feeling *anything at all* would have felt good. And here we come to rage.
Rage, as I’m sure some readers know, is a flood of neurochemicals that sweep through your brain. That which provokes your rage must, at all costs, be annihilated from the world, and must be made to suffer. There is an immense feeling of power and agency that accompanies rage: not only should that thing be destroyed, but you *are able to* destroy it.
For me, no matter how numb I felt, rage would set my brain on fire, burning out the numbness and causing me to feel elated and powerful, an overwhelmingly positive contrast to the feeling *nothing* that I would normally feel.
Over time, of course, the feeling of rage became something that was sought as an end in and of itself. Which meant that I developed a hair-trigger temper, and would embrace any opportunity to become angry that was presented.
Since moving to Canada, my depression has essentially ceased to exist (with a major change of environment, all the environmental causes have been changed/removed), but the joy of rage persisted. It took several years of university, where I studied philosophy and psychology, to begin to recognise the problems associated with this way of interaction, and the need for change. I have managed to reduce the expression of my rage quite considerably over the years, and really learned how to clamp down on the feeling when I notice it starting to surge.
But it still feels *good*. Over the last couple of days, I’ve been feeling particularly upset over something in my life, and it would be so very easy to flip that sadness into rage. To find a reason to locate a cause for my sadness, to blame that cause instead, to dwell on how to retaliate against that cause: in short, to *avoid* ‘feeling sad’, and to elate in RAGE.
This is not productive. It prevents me from dealing with the issue, the source of my sadness, in a meaningful way, which would allow that issue to persist (or, at least, to allow it to continue to resurface to cause me to feel sad, which leads to rage, and around and around we go without resolution).
I think talk of ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ emotions is incredibly simplistic, and just plain wrong. Whereas rage once led me to behaviours that were destructive, both emotionally and in terms of relationships, it can now be harnessed in a more thoughtful way, and resisted when productive outlets aren’t available.
But rage for the sake of rage? That takes you down a long, dark hole that takes a long, long time to climb back up out of. Best to catch it early.
[Edit: I’m a huge fan of Supergirl, and this scene… this is everything that Rage feels like to me: https://youtu.be/22a2bxlvlKM?t=3m17s ]